Originally Posted: Apr 27, 2020
Last Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Not being able to make in-person connections while trying to decide on a school has made the college search process a lot more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic. But there are still plenty of ways to connect with valuable people at your colleges of interest online. Learn more below!
In my conversations with students over the past few weeks, one question comes up over and over: What can students do to move their college goals forward when their plans have changed in one way or another? It’s a great question, and fortunately there’s good news—the opportunities for students to connect with colleges is actually easier than you may think.
Colleges have launched new, innovative ways to share their campuses, connect you with current students and faculty, and make up for lost opportunities like on-campus visits. Now is the perfect time to get ahead of the curve and get to know your colleges of interest and the people who make up their communities. Here are a few ways you can connect with colleges and advice on who to reach out to.
Contact admission offices
Your first step in connecting with a college should be filling out the contact form on its admission page. This will put you on a mailing list, ensuring you get invited to online events and receive updates on financial aid and scholarships as well as changing test requirements. After filling out the form, take the next step and follow them on social media to see what their priorities are for students and how they share important information through their platforms.
Connect with admission representatives
Most colleges assign an admission representative to your school and/or area. You can find yours by checking out the admission page and searching for “find your admission counselor.” Some schools may also have a “Meet Us” page. Once you find the admission representative you’re looking for, introduce yourself—they are eager to talk to you! This is why they went into admission, after all: to get to know students and admit them if their school is the right fit. [Note: Admission reps currently can’t travel to high schools or attend college fairs right now due to the coronavirus, but remember that they’re isolated too and would still love to meet you virtually.]
Start off by sending them an email and include “Class of 2021 student from [name of your school] in [your state]” in the subject line to get their attention. When they visit your area again, they’ll remember you; when they read your application, they’ll know you. Your representative should be your advocate, so get to know them; a personal connection can help you stand out.
To get you on the right foot with your admission representative and to make even more connections at a potential school, try asking some of these questions:
- Can I be connected to current students who are in my desired major or others who can tell me more about their experience?
- Are there any alumni I can connect with?
- Are there professors in my major of interest who can talk to me?
Find your people
While the college admission office should be your first point of contact, you need to go deeper by finding the right people to connect with according to your goals and needs. The office will be happy to help you find the right people so you can learn more about their college. They can connect you with a current student, a faculty member in a department of interest, someone on an athletic team, a member of a club that resonates with you, or an alum who might later help you in your internship and job searches. These people want to help you learn more about their college, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Meet a student
College students are busy, there’s no doubt about that. But even if they can’t meet you in person, they likely have some extra time to answer an email or a phone call. Answering your questions and sharing their enthusiasm for their school is part of what makes students active members of their campus community. I recently heard from one admission director who said they had over 200 current students ready to connect with prospective students!
Here are some suggestions of what you could ask a current student about their school. The answers will give you a good idea if their school is the kind of community you want to be a part of:
- What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about your college?
- What kinds of things did you do on the weekend?
- What will you miss most about your college experience when you graduate?
- What’s your favorite school tradition?
- Does your school facilitate a healthy school-life balance?
In addition, asking these unconventional questions about the coronavirus pandemic could really help you get to the heart of a school:
- How did your college handle the transition to online learning?
- What did your college do to connect with you once you moved off campus?
- Were faculty members supportive during this time?
- How did they handle the move-out process and support you once you got home?
Meet a faculty member
If an academic area calls to you, go to a school’s academics page to check out what classes they offer within the major, what research is being conducted in that field of study, and what options students have to get involved. Your admission representative can connect you to a professor to further discuss these things, or you can reach out on your own. You’d be surprised by the connections you can build before even arriving on campus.
Meet a coach
Are you a student-athlete who would like to be recruited? The best place to start is to complete the Recruiting Questionnaire that is often found on the athletics page of most colleges websites. Another resource is the NCAA site, which offers a listing of sports and conferences and a direct link to the athletics pages for participating colleges. By completing this questionnaire, coaches will have the information they need about you and can reach out to further discuss your potential in college sports.
Before you reach out…
A great place to start exploring aspects of college you may have never considered is Corsava, an online card sorting game that’ll help you discover what’s most and least important to you in a school. Use this helpful tool before you connect with schools, as it will help them direct you to the right people on campus. Once you know what’s important to you, you’ll be able properly compare your college lineup. [Editor’s note: You can connect with schools on CollegeXpress as well!]
Once you have your list of colleges, choose one or two per week to focus on. Try giving each week a theme; for instance, the college’s mascot could be a key reason you put a school on your list. Have some fun with it, and don’t let it be just one more thing you have to do. The college search should be something that you enjoy as you contemplate your future.
You can also learn more about college life in general by checking out the free course “Understanding College and College Life”—because you can never be too prepared for college!
Don’t let the college search stress you out
Let’s face it, the college search takes a lot of energy, so these suggestions aren’t mandatory by any means. But talking to the right people at your colleges of interest tends to spark excitement in students when someone explains why they love their school. Use your correspondence to help guide your search, spread your research and tasks out for less stress, and be good to yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when college application season arrives and you’re well ahead of schedule!
For more advice on connecting with colleges during your college search process, check out our College Admission section.